Executive coaches adjust to changing times

Changes anticipated as workforce transitions

Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar. (AP Photo/Ziglar, Inc.)
Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar. (AP Photo/Ziglar, Inc.)

Remember executive coaches?

Just as athletic coaches adapt to opposition and counsel those on the playing field, so too do the coaches in the world of business. And that game has been changing.

In the past, business coaches catered to a select crowd of executives who wanted help advancing their careers. Legendary motivational speaker and one of the early business coaches, Zig Ziglar, who died on Nov. 28, urged his clients, “If you can dream it, then you can achieve it. You will get all you want in live if you help enough other people get what they want.”

Business coaches still serve a similar client base, but the spectrum of their tactics has widened.

Blair Wagner, president and founder of Your Business Engine in Coralville, works with dozens of clients each year and typically manages a rotation of about 10 coaching prospects at a time.

“Today, more people are starting businesses than ever before,” Wagner said, and these up-and-coming entrepreneurs make up a large portion of the professionals she coaches.

Her clients range from financial and marketing planners to leadership personnel, and her business coaching strategizes to help adept professionals translate their long-term goals into reality.

“People who have an area of expertise and have worked in a corporate environment now want to start their own businesses. On the one hand, they are trying to be cautious of the economy, but on the other hand, they want to take advantage of the opportunity they see,” Wagner said.

Wagner specializes in guiding her coaching prospects in preparing business plans that focus on three factors — their market, their clients and idea generation.


David Drewelow, head coach at Action Coach of the Heartland in Cedar Rapids, has been recruiting and coaching for 10 years. Coaching, he says, is particularly effective in many business settings because of the outside perspective it provides to working professionals.

“People know what they want to do. They just don’t know how to get there or do it fast,” Drewelow said.

Drewelow works with clients from manufacturing to medicine to focus on five key areas — sales; marketing and advertising; team building and recruitment; systems and business development; and customer service.

“Where we come in as coaches, just as in sports, is that we are the accountability factor,” he said. “We help clients figure out what needs to be done and then hold them accountable to getting it done.”

“We think it’s important to take your ‘goods’ and make them ‘greats.’ We consider executive coaching as an investment,” said Heidi Schultz, owner and partner at Management Resource Group in Hiawatha.

“If you think someone in your organization has the potential, we want to ensure they’ll transition to their new role and be successful.”


On average, Management Resource Group coaches about 10 clients a year, and coaching can last anywhere from three to six months.

“A lot of coaching can be done in groups now, but MRG is always one-on-one, in-person and at a C-Suite level,” Schultz said.

Schultz has seen the coaching industry change in waves over the past two decades, with a recent uptick in inquiries that leads her to believe more companies are beginning to understand the importance of investing in their employees.

“In the late ’90s, coaching caught on, and then between 2006 and 2008, it became more of a ‘only-when-we-have-to’ kind of thing,” she recalled. “Today, we’re seeing more and more organizations start to ask about it again.”

Drewelow agreed that the market for coaching has shifted in recent years along with the economy.

“A bad economy is good for our business because it gives people an accurate awareness of what they need to get focused on,” he noted.

“When I started (in 2005), I was doing strictly coaching,” Wagner said. “Over time, what I have seen is that what people need and want is a combination of coaching and mentoring.

“As coaches, we do not have the answers. What we do is bring out clarity from our clients.

“But a mentor directs a little bit more. My clients need both, and I’ve evolved to being a coach and a mentor.”

In the coming years, Schultz also anticipates a change in her field, saying that she thinks more executive coaching will be needed as the work force changes: With more baby boomers leaving the work force in coming years, that will mean more vacancies in important positions.“We’ll start to see companies trying to find extra talent and skilled workers, and that’s where coaching will come into play,” Schultz said. “It’s about investing in the talent that’s already out there.”

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